Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nathaniel Pitt Langford and Yellowstone

On our recent trip to Yellowstone Park and Grand Teton National Park, we revisited several locations in search of more information about Nathaniel Pitt Langford. We had been to the park about two years ago, before we realized the familial connection. N P Langford was Oscar Langford's first cousin. He was known for being on the 1870 Washburn-Langford-Doane expedition that first surveyed the Yellowstone area. A follow up survey was done by the US Geological Survey the next year, on which he also served. There is a Mount Langford in Yellowstone. He was the first superintendent of the first National Park in the world.
We entered the Park from the West entrance since we were driving down from Butte, Montana. The first ranger station is located at Madison, Wyoming. It is a very small and off the road place. We found a small building manned by a few rangers. I identified our reason for being there to the young Ranger who was available, explaining Nancy's relation to N. P. Langford. He was excited to learn this and let us know that we were at the very location that the 1870 expedition camped on their last night. There was a plaque on the site commemorating this event.
For many years the National Park Service identified this spot as the place where the idea of a National Park was first suggested around that last campfire. More recently, readings of the personal journals of the men on the expedition has caused this theory to be questioned. Nevertheless, it is the location of that last campfire and this was just great to see in person.
Here are two pictures. The first is Nancy and I, albeit windblown, with the rivers in the background and the plaque to the left. The second is National Park Mountain, so named because of the 1870 expedition and lore.

This was our first day in either park and we were not done making some discoveries. 
Our next stop were the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. Nancy had read NP Langford's book about the expedition and loved his description of these falls. Here are a few pictures of the falls.

After seeing these awesome falls, we checked in at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where we had easy access to both parks for the week. It turns out N P  Langford also had a controversial contact with Grand Teton. He was on a survey team again, that went to the Grand Teton area. He claimed to be the first white man to climb Grand Teton, the highest mountain in the Teton Range. Because of the description that he and his climbing partner provided, this has been questioned. Evidently, he had a long running disagreement with another pioneer who also claimed this climb, and this was written about in several newspapers.
Below is a picture of Grand Teton.
Our last day in Jackson, we drove back to Yellowstone to see the Visitor's Center at Mammoth Hot Springs near the north entrance, and to visit the Yellowstone Library located in Gardiner, Montana. At Mammoth Hot Springs, there is a large display about the early visitors to the Park. On display and related to N P Langford are two of his hand guns, his derringer and his saddle. 
The last stop of the day was the most fruitful. The Yellowstone Library, in Gardiner, has the personal journals of N P Langford. These he hand wrote immediately after the 1870 expedition. They are the notes that he used for making speeches about the expedition. They are almost 150 years old and we got to hold them and look through them. The Library also did a search of their holdings for us and found about thirty different documents and books associated with N P Langford. We did not have time to view them all but we have the list and we have found ways to access this material after the trip.
One other fascinating document that we looked at was a report from the 1983 Langford Expedition which recreated the 1870 survey. This survey was conducted by William P. Langford, a second great nephew of N P Langford. He, and a group of interested parties and presumably, some other cousins, rode on horseback to some of the uninhabited areas of Yellowstone only accessible this way. The also climbed Mount Coulter and reclaimed it as Mount Langford.
It was especially pleasant for us to revisit these national treasures now that we know what a strong Langford connection exists to their very discovery and founding.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mary Ann Angell Young

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Langford family had a connection to the Mormon trek from east to west which ended in Salt Lake City in 1847. This summer we visited two of the historic sites where they stopped along the way, Winter Quarters near Omaha, Nebraska and Nauvoo, Illinois.

In essence the Mormons faced a lot of persecution and violence along the way. In Kirtland Ohio, they were forced to leave. In Liberty, Missouri, they were forced to leave. In Nauvoo, Illinois, where they thought they would be safe, they constructed a town and a temple in six years. Only Chicago was a bigger city in Illinois in 1844, and only by a little. But, in the end, they were forced to leave Nauvoo also. History has told their story a lot of times and ways, but the reason for their persecution comes down to being different.

Mary Ann Angell struck out on her own from Vermont at the age of 25. She had been given a Book of Mormon by a missionary and decided to join them in Kirtland, Ohio. This is where she met Brigham Young. His first wife had died two years earlier, leaving him with two daughters. He and Mary Ann were married in Kirtland. They began their family there, adding children. It was the calm before the storm.

It was in Kirtland that violence was first brought to bear on the family. Brigham Young had his home ransacked in the middle of the night. He was thought to be a leader of the church, although Joseph Smith was clearly the visionary. The Mormon leaders fled Kirtland and found a home in Liberty, Missouri. The Governor of Missouri ordered them to leave the state or they would be exterminated. They were taken in by the people of Quincy, Illinois, for one winter. About 1500 residents of Quincy took in over 5000 Mormons, before they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.

Brigham Young actually had a house in Montrose, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. Shortly after arriving in Nauvoo, he was sent on a mission and left Mary Ann and the children in their home in Montrose. She would have to row across the river, in winter, for any supplies or food she needed. When he returned Mary Ann had already arranged to buy land in Nauvoo for a home site.

While Brigham Young was on another mission, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyram were taken prisoner and locked up at the Carthage, Illinois jail, where a mob killed them both. It was left to Mary Ann to write Brigham and tell him what had happened. Her letter is on display at the Brigham Young home in Nauvoo. Also there were pottery she used. The house is original and was built by Brigham Young. It was in this house that the plans were made to move to the west. We saw the fireplace that Mary Ann would have cooked on, the outdoor root cellar built by Brigham Young and displays of her dishes and pottery.

Nancy would be Mary Ann's second cousin, three times removed. She is considered Brigham Young's "real" wife. She was known as "Mother Young" to friends and family. She was skilled at the healing arts and especially good with roots and herbs for those afflicted. When Brigham Young reached Utah and established the Mormon community there, he sent missionaries all over the Utah Territory. Brigham Young also took her mother, Phebe Angell, and her sister, Jemima Angell as his wives. Phebe was 59 and Jemima was 42 when they were sealed to Brigham Young. These were marriages of duty or obligation, as were most of his plural marriages. The Mormon Church no longer practices plural marriages.
Mary Ann also became the first lady of the Utah Territory following Brigham Young's appointment to be Governor of the Territory by President Millard Fillmore. A statue of Brigham Young is in the United States Capitol Building.
The scope of Mary Ann's life is amazing. And we got to see her life in Nauvoo depicted on stage at the "Nauvoo Pageant" as well as meet the actors that portrayed her and Brigham Young. Because of Nancy's kinship with her, we were provided front row seats by an eager missionary.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bannack, Montana

We just returned from an aggressive vacation to three national parks: Badlands National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. We also made stops in Bannack, Montana and Omaha Nebraska related to Langford genealogy. The first picture below is the Masonic Building in Bannack. Nathaniel Pitt Langford was involved in Masonry here and his picture still hangs on the Masonic meeting room wall on the second floor. You might wonder how one gets their picture on a wall in a ghost town. It turns out that the Montana Masons have a meeting here every fall since this is recognized as the first meeting of any Masons in the state. Langford was one of three at the first meeting. The Montana Highway Patrol wear the badge of 3-7-77 on their uniforms to this day. This was the number painted on cabins in Langford's era, by the Vigilance Committee, to let people know they had better get out of town. Our guide told us that the "3" stood for the three men at the first Masonic meeting.

The next two pictures are street scenes in Bannack. There are about 60 buildings remaining as well as a visitor's center which includes a gift shop. It is designated as a Montana State Park. Ranger John Phillips gave us a guided tour of Bannack and was fully aware of the importance of NP Langford to the Vigilance Committee, Masonry in Montana and Montana statehood. Ranger Phillips has even "acted" as Langford for the fall Mason meeting.

Lastly, the picture below is from the Masonic meeting room showing NP Langford's picture hanging there. I was also able to buy a copy of his book "Vigilant Days and Ways" at the gift shop.